Category: Sociology of Health & Illness

Put to the test: For a new sociology of testing

A test can be defined as an orchestrated attempt to reveal an entity’s potentially unknown properties or capacities. A drug trial, a pregnancy test, and a planetary probe are all procedures designed to ascertain the properties of some entity. However, while tests and testing are well‐established social forms, their role in culture, economy, politics, and everyday life seems to be expanding. With smart city experimentation, randomized controlled trials in economic development, and apps to test your personality and the performance...

School Closures During COVID-19: Potential Impacts on Homeschooling Regulation

Life as we know it is rapidly changing in the current coronavirus pandemic. While many Americans are experiencing unprecedented financial hardship as unemployment rates are skyrocketing, others with relatively unaffected jobs are nonetheless worried about other aspects of this “new normal”: no handshakes, no large gatherings, and even moving freely about or visiting with loved ones is restricted. Many, of course, are also falling ill or losing family members and friends. Although some states are more affected than others, the...

No Time for Blind Optimism

The world is facing the most serious health catastrophe since 1918.  A global pandemic—one that many medical authorities warned would happen sooner or later—is here.  The coronavirus travels quietly, widely, and can have deadly consequences.  At this writing, well over 1.5 million people have been infected and close to 90,000 have died.  Compare this to the SARS epidemic of 2002-2003 which infected 8,098 people and killed 774 or the 2014 outbreak of the Ebola virus which infected 18,000 people and...

Distance as a social vocation

In this article, I explore the habitus of social distancing to critically engage with the different human conditions that grips us amidst the coronavirus pandemic. I also briefly discuss different kinds of distances we practice in our everyday life before I go on to show how distance is turned into a vocation upon which our survival and hope rests.  The foundation of society is also based on distance as much as it is on closeness. Distances complete us. Let me take you...

The Sociology of Medical Guidelines

Allen Frances, M.D, is an American psychiatrist who chaired the DSM-IV taskforce, and later criticized the DSM-5 and American psychiatry for their roles in manufacturing mental illnesses and the epidemic of overdiagnosis. In this blog post he makes a well-founded plea for sociologic contributions to medicine. Before the Flexner report in 1909, medical education and practice in America were chaotic and of low quality. After the report, both were quickly and dramatically reformed in ways that seemed completely wonderful at...

‘If there were doctors who could understand our problems, I would already be better’: dissatisfactory health care and marginalisation in superdiverse neighbourhoods

In the 2007 film, originally entitled ‘Allotment’, the inimitable Omid Djalili plays a refugee doctor called Ali who consults in his allotment shed. Ali reviews the numerous medications taken by allotmenteer Charlie (played by John Henshaw). Ali indicates one packet of pills: ‘This one here is for women problems! Do you have women problems?’ Charlie looks annoyed, puzzled and then embarrassed. Why is Charlie taking drugs for a gynecological condition? Given Charlie’s dislike of visiting the health centre, his wife...

Money, markets and trade caused coronavirus pandemic

In recent weeks, the microscopic bundle of genes and proteins that comprises the Covid-19 coronavirus has been ascribed almost miraculous powers to infect huge and growing numbers of human bodies.  The media coverage of the outbreak  has ensured that few are unaware of the respiratory tract symptoms that the infection produces: symptoms that – in the case of the most vulnerable – can kill. However, this account has largely sidelined the social, economic and political environment that has contributed to...

The lack of common sense in disorder thinking

Disorder thinking has been popular and dominant in recent decennia, with a rising number of behaviors and emotions being medicalized into a psychiatric disease. More people today than ever before in history are being diagnosed and treated for ever lighter quirks, drawing professional attention away from those who need treatment most. One recent example of medicalizing a problem that someone might have is Misophonia. Misophonia In 2013, a research group led by the Chair of the Dutch Psychiatry Association introduced...

‘Women of my age tend to drink’: Understanding how older Australian and Danish women negotiate the pleasures and risks of their alcohol use

When we think of risky drinking, typically we think of young people ‘binge drinking’, passing out on the footpath and generally looking a bit ‘messy’. The media reinforces the notion that drinking is primarily a problem among young people by regularly circulating stories and images of young people being drunk in public and causing problems either to themselves or bystanders. This emphasis on young people’s drinking is not surprising, particularly since they are more likely to drink in public places,...

“If it’s not on Strava it doesn’t matter”. The collective shaping of running via self-tracking social interactions

“If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen”, I have often been told as I explain my research to runners and cyclists familiar with the social fitness platform. Self-tracking has become an everyday activity, and not just for athletes (and ‘wannabe’ athletes). Wearable devices for self-tracking of sleep, food intake, physical activity and even sex are readily available, and smart phones gather data on steps, heart rate and sleep without you even knowing. The ethics and power issues associated with...

ADHD and brain anatomy: First do no harm!

ADHD is kind of like a cancer disease but you’re not going to die from it Sylvia, US, on medication, age 11 This quote originates from Ilina Singh’s groundbreaking VOICES study that interviews children about ADHD and medication. Sylvia’s account of ADHD is one of a physical and serious disease like cancer -although not lethal. However, ADHD is not a disease like cancer, but a concept from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), currently in its fifth...

Ethnicity in Dementia Research: Are Social Scientists Complicit in Neuropsychiatric Imperialism?

During the early-21st century, social dementia research has experienced something of an ethnic turn. This trajectory is rooted in 1990s psychosocial accounts of dementia that newly championed the perspectives of people with dementia, and the subsequent realisation that these early perspectives were rather white. In response, researchers have increasingly sought to access the dementias of minority ethnicity groups living in high-income countries. Unfortunately, rather than meaningfully engaging with a greater diversity of dementias, much of this movement toward minority ethnicity...

Pregnancy and childbirth in prison

“I’ve got baggy tops, so I just always have to hide my bump, and like most people couldn’t recognise that I’m pregnant, so that’s a good thing”. With a prison population of approximately 9000 women in England, it is estimated that approximately 600 pregnancies and 100 births occur annually.  Despite there being an extensive literature on the sociology of reproduction, pregnancy and childbirth, there has been scarce qualitative research looking specifically at pregnant prisoners. Our recently published open access paper:...

Vaccine frictions – one rationality does not fit all

This blog piece highlights some points of my on-going multi-sited research project on HPV vaccination in Finland. The findings presented are based on my open access research article, What kind of ‘a girls’ thing’?, published in Sociology of Health and Illness. When you are vaccinated, you get protection against the cancer‐causing HP virus. On the front page of the Finnish HPV vaccination campaign site. That vaccine protects from papillomavirus (not directly even from cervical cancer), which is very effectively prevented...

The impact of care farms on quality of life, depression and anxiety among different population groups: A systematic review

This is a plain language summary for a new Systematic Review published in Campbell Systematic Reviews, aimed at understanding the impact of care farming on quality of life, depression and anxiety, on a range of service user groups. Care farming is the therapeutic use of agricultural and farming practices. People value the farms, but the evidence on their effectiveness is limited. What is this review about? Care farming (also called social farming) is the therapeutic use of agricultural and farming...

Against false dichotomies in the politics and ethics of big data exploitations in public healthcare

Care.data was so short-lived. Announced in 2013 and scrapped 3 years later, it was never actually given the chance to serve its purposes and prove how it differed from other ‘revolutionary’ state health data research services. However, someone has only to read the transcripts of the special Health Committee to understand the confusion of the public, healthcare professionals and state institutions in England around this big data programme: how achievable it was, who could deliver it, to whose benefit or...